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The Sustainability Choices We're Making Today

Wow. It's been a whole year since I last posted. And the last time I posted I was starting an indefinite hiatus due to a recent cancer diagnosis. Well - I'm happy to see that after several surgeries, a bunch of meds, and a bunch of radiation, my doctors say that I'm NED - No Evidence of Disease. I do unfortunately have some side effects from one of the surgeries - I'll have to manage those for the rest of my life. But I'm here, and that's what matters. And I'm still playing with garbage!

I wanted to explain a little bit about some of the choices I make as a handmade artist, and how those choices reflect my commitment to continually lowering my environmental footprint. First - I don't make every single component on my jewelry. I'm not a metalsmith, I don't even know where to begin when it comes to that. But I do want to source my metal components from ethical companies who are transparent about their own supply chain. Most of the metal pieces that I use come from two companies in the United States, and most of the metal pieces they make are made here, as well. Two of the metal items I regularly use are made in Italy. I do have a few metal items that I use that I'm currently unable to trace their origins, and because of that, I'm currently in talks with a local metalsmith to have her create those pieces for me. It's really important to me that the additional components that I use are made ethically, and I'm regularly looking at ways to refine and better my sourcing. Of course, that does come at a higher price, but I know that my customers appreciate this part as well as the trash part.

The colorful pieces on my jewelry are made from trash plastics - plastics I find during clean-ups and plastics that are recycled with me. In most cases the plastics I use are not recyclable where I live (make sure you check with your own local recycler to find out what they take!). While I do use some resin, it's a minimal amount. It's from a company called Entropy Resins - it's a plant based bio-resin and the company is a member of 1% for the Planet. As far as resins go, theirs was the only company that I could find that was transparent about their process and didn't try to mislead the customer about their product.

I make most of my own shipping materials or I re-use discarded shipping materials. All of my shipping boxes are either handmade from other used shipping boxes, or they're reclaimed used shipping boxes. I pack in plastic bags that I either make from discarded plastics or are already made but never used discarded plastic bags from a local medical company. The rest of the box is packed with shredded paper made from discarded materials. When I sell at in person events, I package jewelry in padded envelopes made from discarded bubble mailers and thrift store wrapping paper. I do use paper packing tape and stickers to brand and seal the boxes, although I'm looking at making the switch to compostable tapes and stickers when my current supply runs out.

I engage in regular clean-ups and post about those on social media, in an effort to encourage others to do the same. In November I'll start tracking the waste collected so that I can compare and contrast any new plastic coming in to the company vs. what I remove from the environment. The goal is to be at minimum plastic neutral, but ultimately plastic negative.

My company is a member of 1% for the Planet and also a member of Ocean Conservancy's Champions for Sea Change program. A few years ago I noticed that social media algorithms pushed a lot of ads my way from companies that claimed to give a certain percentage of sales towards conservation efforts. When I looked further into a lot of these companies, I realized that there was no transparency regarding donations, no partnership, and in some cases, it was very obviously a fraudulent claim. I wanted to be fully transparent about our giving and memberships in the above mentioned organizations make that possible. In addition, the donations from hey Lola are posted in a highlight reel on my Instagram, so you can always check to make sure that as a company, we're giving back in the manner that we claim.

I recently made the decision to invest in a years worth of sustainability courses through Coursera , so that I can continue to make more educated and informed choices regarding my own business. I also want to make sure the information I pass on is current and accurate. By paying for the Coursera courses, I am agreeing to take these classes within a set timeframe, and to have my work graded. This insures that I'm actually doing the work that I say I am (Coursera does allow you to audit courses for free, which I highly recommend if you're not in a position to purchase individual courses or a subscription).

I feel like I may be missing some things, but those are definitely the highlights of how I create and package and market my recycled jewelry. As always, I'm open to any tips or suggestions you want to share, and I appreciate you taking the time to read!

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